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  1. #1

    Default Lets Talk Distributions

    I didn't post this in the science section because I wanted to find out more about how they relate to the Big Five, MBTI Step II and MBTI Step III. I am a "lay person" when it comes to these things but quite statistically savvy. It may sound arrogant, but I believe I understand common factor analysis, principle component analysis, other factor models, and multivariate linear regression in general, better than most people--even many who (over)use it regularly.

    This is what I do know (I'll be doing a lot of "explaining," not to be condescending, but simply to get people who may be interested up to speed).

    There are two kinds of distributions that seem to come up in this forum:
    • "bimodal" distributions. Bi-modal meaning "having two modes." Mathematically speaking the mode of a distribution is the most frequently occurring value in the distribution--the "peak" if you will. A bimodal distribution will show two peaks. Granted, one may be the official mode, mathematically speaking. But plotting the distribution visually will show to peaks.

      This kind of distribution, I believe, is popular in the Myers-Briggs and related typologies. I have no idea what particular bimodal distributions are used for each dichotomy, but I suspect the sum of two Gaussians of different means is popular.
    • "Gaussian" distributions. Also, called "bell curves," or "normal" distributions. I dislike the use of the word "normal" because, in my training, that is reserved for the Gaussian of mean 0, and standard deviation of 1. Also, words like "normalize" are used for distributions of all sorts, so it can create confusion in the belief that when we "normalize" something we are trying to force fit something to a Gaussian (which may or may not be true).

      Gaussians are the kinds of distributions seen in the Five Factor Model typology, I believe.


    Some facts that I believe everyone participating in the discussion should know

    • The most important statistical fact (beyond the Law of Large numbers which people seem to know inherently) I believe people should know is the Central Limit Theorem.
      The Central limit theorem states that the sum of independent, identically distributed random variables of finite variance tends towards a Gaussian distribution. It should be clear to people that the same is true for averages of identically distributed random variables (simply scaled down by the number of variables added together).

      The relevance here is that if you have a big questionnaire in which all the questions have bimodal distributions in the answers, the sum or average will tend to be Gaussian, unless there is a strong correlation between the answers given on each of the questions. This seems to be an artifact of testing also. In a way, you can create "noise" in a test which when added together tends to be Gaussian (this is especially true if the noise is purely random).
    • A psychological tendency know as the Central Tendency Bias. When given a range of selections to chose from, people tend to chose toward the middle, even if a more extremal value is more accurate. When it comes to answering questions describing our own personalities, this will also tend to create a more Gaussian distribution.
    • The distribution of answers on a question with only two answers will necessarily be bimodal because there are only two possible values. That is Bivalent implies bimodal. This seems to be an artifact of how the question is asked, not necessarily anything real.


    My questions in general concerning the "validity" of personality systems

    • Why we believe that Step III will be more valid than the current MBTI?
    • Why is the FFM more "academically blessed?"
    • Why are MBTI, DiSC, Temperament (all Myers-Briggs like), etc. more popular in corporations still?
    • Do you believe the use of either typologies leads to Self-fulfilling prophecies?
    • Do you believe use of either typology will do more harm than good?
    • Although, I understand the statistics behind various factor analysis, I find psychometric papers hard to read, because of assumed knowledge of what particular letter-denoted variables are, and general use of psychometric jargon. Is there a good way to find out what factor models are being used, and what the original data sets, correlation matrices, or covariance matrices were?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    This kind of distribution, I believe, is popular in the Myers-Briggs and related typologies. I have no idea what particular bimodal distributions are used for each dichotomy, but I suspect the sum of two Gaussians of different means is popular.
    IIRC, it's not. The actual distribution is kurtotic and is still unimodal (I am assuming you are talking about the test scores, not preferences) Unfortunately, CAPT doesn't support much research into this, strangely enough, so there isn't much else I can say to it. It's been mentioned to me several times now, however, that test results from step II are decidedly not bimodal.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    IIRC, it's not. The actual distribution is kurtotic and is still unimodal (I am assuming you are talking about the test scores, not preferences) Unfortunately, CAPT doesn't support much research into this, strangely enough, so there isn't much else I can say to it. It's been mentioned to me several times now, however, that test results from step II are decidedly not bimodal.
    Its funny, when I was introduced to the FFM, I remember reading that one of the differences is that the distributions are not bi-modal.

    It is quite possible (IME likely) that non-zero kurtosis is the result of an underlying bimodal distribution added with Gaussian noise.

    To bring onlookers up to speed:
    kurtosis is the 4rth "moment" of a distribution.

    The moments of a distribution is an analogy (a perfect mathematical one) to physical moments.

    The first moment is the mean of the distribution.
    The second is the variance.
    The third skewness.
    The fourth is kurtosis.

    You can find all the moments of a distribution using a moment generating function assuming it exists.

    I hope someone knows where to find further information.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  4. #4
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Its funny, when I was introduced to the FFM, I remember reading that one of the differences is that the distributions are not bi-modal.
    That's what I thought at first. However, a while back I got PMed from a researcher using MBTI who corrected me. I remember looking into it and coming to the same conclusion. Then again later, elsewhere, I was talking to a psychologist who mentioned it to me when CAPT was talking about massaging their data. It was generally rejected to do any normalization - the reference was how it was unusual to not attempt to fit the data to any existing model, even though the data tended to resemble a normal model.

    (I bring it up for those that want to look into it - I'm out of the psychometrics investigation department now )

  5. #5
    Senior Member edcoaching's Avatar
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    The reason corporations still use MBTI etc. is because the instruments themselves have no magic--it's how individuals/teams/coaches/trainers APPLY knowledge about self and others that brings about change or efficiencies or better communication or cohesive teams or whatever the purpose of taking the instrument was.

    So...corporations are often looking for trainers/consultants who have expertise in those applications. They often use the MBTI because it's pretty reasonable and very effective when interpreted by knowledgeable people who help people find their best-fit types as opposed to only using reported types.

    For really good trainers...it doesn't really matter what instrument they use. The real work starts in the interpretation and application. Most of them don't need any instrument but instead can help people understand differences through reflection and exercises.
    edcoaching

  6. #6
    Senior Member edcoaching's Avatar
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    Default Step III

    And Step III...it's a whole different animal.

    It will only be available for purchase by people trained in counseling. The instrument is totally separate from Step I and Step II and looks for type development--how well a person uses Perception (through S and N) and Judgment (through T and F).

    Here's a link to the most current information on it.

    MBTI Step III - CAPT.org
    edcoaching

  7. #7

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    Maybe I've been brainwashed by working in a technical field, but if the tests themselves aren't useful indicators how do you go build a "body of knowledge?"

    How do you know if your coaching is effective or good? do you use feedback surveys? or do you just have a great memory?

    How does one transfer the knowledge of what is effective from one coach to another?

    Do you find Myers-Briggs theory itself applicable?

    Sorry if this feels like the third degree, I just have a lot of questions.

    I am asking because, I have never been a "natural" at anything. I generally get better by learning and incorporating "Best known Methods" in particular fields into my thinking.

    The reason I turned to personality theories is to learn something I could incorporate into my thinking.

    I don't necessarily want to become a coach, but I do want to know how they go about doing things.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  8. #8
    Senior Member edcoaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Maybe I've been brainwashed by working in a technical field, but if the tests themselves aren't useful indicators how do you go build a "body of knowledge?"
    First off, you rely not on reported type [results from MBTI, Golden, PTI, etc.] but on best-fit type--the type a person self-identifies through multiple methods which may include an instrument. The best studies are based on best-fit, not reported type, because the instruments were never meant to be diagnostic tools. They're self-reporting so there's more error variance than, say, in the MMPI.

    Second, a huge body of knowledge has been built up by professionals who have gathered information from confirmed people of the 16 types that show distinct patterns in all kinds of things--career choice, communication preferences, change needs, decision making, and so on.

    Third, you see "what works" and capture that in studies. For example (and this won't surprise you) Extraverted and Sensing students catch onto math concepts faster when they use hands-on materials and are given time to experiment with them in order to make sense of the problem. They need to move, talk and ask questions to develop understanding. We filmed students doing the same tasks and there were clear differences (and yes, we used best-fit, not reported type, in the study).
    How do you know if your coaching is effective or good? do you use feedback surveys? or do you just have a great memory?
    I mostly coach teachers, so I'm looking for whether they change their teaching practices. Sometimes I'm looking at assignments, classroom management, differentiated activities, rigor...I might actually record class time spent in each learning style, or rate the rigor of assignments, or together we'd look at student work to see if any one group of students is not catching on. So my effectiveness is judged by whether the teacher is meeting the needs of more students.

    For teams, sometimes I survey before and after. If I've been called into mediate in a huge conflict situation, I might do a blind survey a few weeks later to find out who thinks they've made progress toward resolution and who thinks more intervention is needed. The last time I did that, where there'd been huge problems, over 70% were ready to move ahead with teaming, 20% were ready but wanted a few more protocols to continue the progress, and just 10% felt things hadn't been resolved (100% had felt there was too much conflict to team effectively before the intervention...)

    How does one transfer the knowledge of what is effective from one coach to another?
    There are great books and resources on coaching, teambuilding, conflict resolution, etc. Type puts patterns to things we see in human nature and you can learn how to use those patterns to foster understanding.

    There are workshops all over the place where you can experience things that work and learn how to use them with others.

    I train coaches through "live" case studies, where they learn how to adjust their style to interview and create action plans with people of dissimilar types. They're a blast and people quickly grasp why changing up their style is so important.

    Do you find Myers-Briggs theory itself applicable?
    Absolutely. It's the theory, not the instruments, that does the work. Here are some examples.
    • When I finally got teachers to grasp the different needs of Judging and Perceiving students at one school, the teachers worked to implement strategies that took the failure rate on science fair, ,history day, major reports, etc., from 30 % to 0-2%.
    • In a team where over 60% of the employees were siding with the "old" president who still worked there, I used type theory to help them understand and appreciate the style of the new president. The intervention was so lasting that other department chiefs had me work with their staffs.
    • One team's meetings had been ending in shouting matches. We did an afternoon workshop just on communication and at the end the biggest troublemaker looked at all the work posted around the room and said, "Can we always sit in our [ST, SF, NF, NT] groups so we remember that we actually speak foreign languages?" The employees asked to have me return for at least 4 other meetings, working on other issues with them.
    • One student, responsible for 50% of the referrals to the principal's office, learned about his own type and his best approaches to learning and so did his teachers. He was NEVER in the principal's office again.


    I could go on and on. Ethically used, type can help people understand each other's strengths in ways that can truly be constructive. Hope this doesn't sound like a lecture--it is true that it is often misused, so a lot of people have only had superficial experiences and have no idea how effective deep use of the theory can be...
    edcoaching

  9. #9

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    Thanks edcoaching. That was very edifying.

    Since the original topic seems to be a boondoggle (unless you can speak to the distributions), I'd like to follow-up on your last post.

    1) How does one go about finding the best-fit type of a person?
    2) What are some principles to adjusting one's style to others?
    3) How do you overcome skepticism regarding applying type theory in groups?
    4) What sources would you recommend to understand Myers-Briggs theory like a coach?
    5) What other knowledge is needed to put type theories in context?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  10. #10
    Senior Member edcoaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Thanks edcoaching. That was very edifying.

    Since the original topic seems to be a boondoggle (unless you can speak to the distributions), I'd like to follow-up on your last post.
    Sorry about that...but you did ask about Step III
    1) How does one go about finding the best-fit type of a person?
    Think I'll make that a separate thread
    2) What are some principles to adjusting one's style to others?
    If they're the ones who have to do the changing, then you're the one who has to switch styles. So...if you want an employee to perform better, communicate in their style. If a student is struggling, meet their learning style needs.

    Adjusting for E and I means thinking about wait time, time to process out loud, etc. Adjusting for J and P means thinking about the other person's closure style, not your own. Fairly simple yet rocket science in its effectiveness.

    The heart of communication style, then is the function pairs. ST, SF, NF, NT. Quick tips:
    ST: Be brief and cover the details in order
    SF: Give me the details that affect me and those I work with or serve
    NF: Relate to big ideas and listen to me as well
    NT: Respect my intelligence and give me the options
    3) How do you overcome skepticism regarding applying type theory in groups?
    If I've been brought in as a trainer, within the first 10 minutes I get the group involved in an exercise where the type differences are clearly demonstrated. They sit down saying, "Okay, this is real. Now show us what we can do with it..."

    If they're considering whether to use it at all, usually the skepticism arises from what they've heard about the instruments. I emphasize that it's application that counts and describe the very real results I've gotten.

    If it's an individual within a group, usually by the end of the day they've seen enough to know that even if it's not their first choice of theories, there's something to it.
    4) What sources would you recommend to understand Myers-Briggs theory like a coach?
    Visit Differentiated Coaching for Educators - Home and take a look at the coaching style descriptions available on the first page, and the case studies. The book is great too. You'll see seminars on coaching through type offered around the country by different local type organizations. Check calendars at Welcome to APT International And, there's a coaching SIG that you can join free that is organized through the same organization.
    5) What other knowledge is needed to put type theories in context?
    The stock answer is that you need to have the expertise in whatever field you're going to use type. So...you'd study marriage counseling, spiritual direction, coaching, teambuilding/organizational development, counseling, career counseling, etc. and use type within those contexts.

    For example I'd already been trained as a strategic planning facilitator and the way we ran those sessions made an easy bridge to building teams.
    Last edited by edcoaching; 10-04-2008 at 05:05 PM. Reason: messed up the quites
    edcoaching

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